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Streamline ordering and communication with a connected Kitchen Display System (KDS)

Since LS One 2020 was released in July, the LS One team has been developing extra functionality to enhance the system. They have put special focus on extending the capabilities for restaurants and food service businesses. Trident is LS Retail Central Platinum Partner, offering ERP for Retail & Hospitality.

The Kitchen Display System (KDS) is a digital order viewer that replaces paper tickets and printers in a restaurant kitchen. A KDS has become an essential component in a modern kitchen, as it helps organize and streamline work:

  • No more stained, hard-to-read paper tickets: all orders are displayed on screens, clear and tidy.
  • No need for servers to waste time running from the front to the kitchen and back: all communication between kitchen and front (orders, items, their preparation status) goes through your POS system.
  • Items and orders are automatically routed and displayed at the proper food preparation stations.
  • Items are shown on the screens by production order, so kitchen staff can start and complete preparation timely.
  • Kitchen staff can bump dishes to different stations, or mark orders and items as ready.
  • The Kitchen Display System and the POS are connected via a two-way communication system. Front-of-house staff can see the status of orders at the POS, and make sure all dishes are delivered to the guests at the right time.
  • You can add screens and set up specific automations to follow your kitchen’s flow.

In the past, to connect a KDS to LS One you needed to do your own integration. From this version of LS One onwards, you can use your LS One POS system with the LS Retail Kitchen Display System. The systems are connected out of the box, no extra work needed.

Picture this:

Your server takes the order at the POS. When they send the order to the kitchen, the items are automatically routed to the KDS in the correct kitchen station (for example, the grill station versus the sauté or dessert station), and displayed in the right order of production.

When a guest asks “When is my dish coming?” front-of-house staff can check at the POS the status of the order, and update the table. Easy, quick, and professional.

Sell groups of items easily with assembly items

It’s now easier than ever before to sell multiple items at once – for example, as a gift basket. In LS One you can now create “assembly items” by combining different items into one. The options are endless:

  • Set up deals (or meal deals, if you run a restaurant or café)
  • Create hampers and gift baskets
  • Make bills of materials
  • Set up recipes, managing the ingredients as separate items
  • Assemble supply kits

Do you run a chain, and want to differentiate your offering across locations?

You can vary the list of component items between locations, and easily substitute products or ingredients as needed. For example, your holiday hamper can include Gouda cheese, instead of brie, in some of your store locations.

You can set a special price for the final item, or add up the prices of the items that compose it – your choice. If you want, you can also display the list of components on the POS receipt, on the printed receipt, and on kitchen orders – or you can hide it.

The integration to SAP Business One ERP just keeps on getting better

Since we introduced the out-of-the-box integration between LS One and ERP SAP Business One, more and more businesses have moved from other POS solutions to LS One. Using their valuable feedback, we have been working on the integration to make it even more immediate and seamless.

  • You can now add a U.S. tax setup when you create a customer on the POS
  • The login service layer is more intuitive and quicker
  • We have added tax synchronization for specific localizations
  • You can now easily connect to different versions of SAP Business One HANA

More enhancements to come as the LS One team keeps on ironing out the wrinkles.

Endlessly enhancing LS One

We are continuously working on improving LS One in terms of functionality, speed and simplicity. Some highlights from this release:

  • You can now add the company’s country information
  • Discount calculations are way faster than before
  • We have redesigned the “send to station” and “menu type selection” dialogs (restaurant-specific functionality)
  • The kitchen printing/send to station functionality is now fast and seamless (restaurant-specific).

You can find more enhancements and fixes in the release notes. And as usual, more improvements are ahead as the team keeps on working to make LS One the best POS in the industry.

If you have any comments, suggestions, or any query for us, get in touch! or write at info@tridentinfo.com

 

 

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How Microsoft Business Central is Powerful & All in One Business Management Solution

Run your business anywhere with Microsoft Business Central

Choose cloud or on-premises. Business Central runs where you need it, offering the same user experience no matter how you deploy.

Take your business on the go.  The mobile version supports both cloud and on-premises users with a consistent experience across Windows, Android, and iOS devices.

Remove language barriers. Business Central supports 25 languages to help increase your productivity.

Store and transmit data across your systems. Help protect your data from unauthorized access with automatic Microsoft datacenter encryption


Manage your financials

Make informed decisions using connected data from reports, charts, and Microsoft Power BI dashboards across finance and accounting, sales, purchasing, and inventory. The late payment prediction extension helps you reduce receivables.

View charts and reports in real time through built-in reports, Excel, or Power BI. Use unlimited dimensions for your data to identify patterns and trends.

Accelerate financial closing and reporting by using the integrated accounts receivable and payable capabilities. Streamline the process with approval workflows and Microsoft Power Automate integration.

Track financial performance with custom general ledger (G/L) and account schedules reporting. Evaluate cost, revenue, or profit reporting in the cost accounting module.


Optimize your supply chain

Predict the best time to replenish stock using built-in intelligence. Use sales forecasts and expected stock-outs to automatically create purchase orders.

Get a holistic view of your inventory, and use the same costing method or different methods for your inventory items. Freely move items between locations, and control the quantity on hand using cycling counting.

Engage with your suppliers proactively and cost-effectively. Register potential suppliers, send inquiries, and convert the best offers to orders. Configure required approvers to help ensure compliance with internal and external policies.

Use system-generated suggestions to replenish inventory based on actual and forecast demand and availability.


Accelerate your sales process

Prioritize leads based on revenue potential. Keep track of customer interactions and get guidance on the best upsell, cross-sell, and renewal opportunities throughout your sales cycle.

Optimize revenue and address customers’ needs, with flexible pricing and discount structures for individual customers and customer groups.

Keep an overview of agreements with sales order and blanket sales order processes. Quickly give customers details about prices, discounts, delivery dates, product availability, and fulfillment status.

Address customer returns with sales return order management, including credit notes, repairs, or replacements.


Deliver projects on time and under budget

Create, manage, and track customer projects using timesheets and advanced job costing and reporting capabilities. Develop and modify budgets to ensure project profitability.

Manage resource levels by planning capacity and sales. Track customer invoicing against planned or actual costs on orders and quotes.

Make effective decisions using real-time insights on project status, profitability, and resource-usage metrics.


Run your warehouse efficiently

Optimize your storage facilities by setting up bins and zones in Business Central to reflect the layout of your warehouse and its racks and shelves.

Streamline receiving and storage by using a template to determine the best placement of items based on type, size, and bin capacity.

Get recommendations on where to move items to optimize the space and the picking process. Speed up shipments and reduce friction caused by cross-docking.

Use real-time data on every item’s zone, bin, and quantity to better fulfill your customers’ orders.

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8 tips to build a successful restaurant experience in times of crisis and beyond

Digital transformation is no longer a choice. That’s the key message from the experts who spoke at “How to build a successful restaurant experience in Covid times,” an online event organized by LS Retail and Microsoft. The panel included industry experts from Microsoft and LS Retail as well as Leon DeWet, a CIO with decades of experiences in the F&B industry. The group discussed how restaurants can build competences and resilience to maintain customer loyalty and thrive, now and through the next crisis. This blog is mainly for Restaurant management software & tips for Successful restaurant  experience

Restaurant Management Software

Here are 8 tips from the experts to help you approach this digital transformation, so that you can ride the next wave of change instead of being crushed by it.

1. Rethink every step of the journey

Yesterday, you had to deliver convenience and hospitality; today, you must also guarantee customer and employee safety.

Many restaurants have added quick fixes, such as covering payment devices in plastic, so they can easily be sanitized. “How often does the reader on the contactless device not work, now that it’s covered in plastic?,” Minicola asked attendees, adding “And how often do restaurants ask me to touch the screen anyway to provide a tip?”

The boom of contactless payments, home delivery, drive-thru and curbside is not temporary. Restaurants must step back, rethink the whole journey, and implement solutions that are effective and designed to last long-term.

Two examples that were mentioned of additions that will bring a benefit now and tomorrow:

  • Menus that can be accessed via a QR code are useful now – paper menus are hard to sanitize – and will provide a value later on, as they enable restaurants to make quick menu changes without wasting time or printing costs.
  • Software to manage tables and seating plans can help you easily redesign your floor plan, with safely distanced tables and clear tracking of who is seating where and when for contact tracing purposes. In the future, table management software can help you optimize seating space, track the status of each table (who is waiting to order, who has been served) and easily accommodate last-minute guests, all the while keeping your service flawless.

2. Focus on mobility

Mobility should be a priority in any digitization project. Running your Point of Sale on mobile devices helps you manage the flow of guests and staff inside the restaurant premises. Your server can take an order from a group sitting on the terrace, and then go to another table, take their card payment and see them out. Service is faster and more convenient for your guests, who can stay seated throughout. At the same time, you reduce the risk of contagion by reducing needless walking around and queuing at the till, and by letting servers using a personal device instead of sharing a standard till.

And if your POS offers a two-way connection to the display systems in the kitchen, you get a whole set of extra benefits. “With our restaurant software, when you punch in an order at the POS, the order is sent automatically to a digital display at the correct kitchen station. Your front-of-house staff is spared all the needless back and forth from the table to the kitchen and to the register. The result is less risk of contact, and less time wasted,” said Eric Miller, Regional Director at LS Retail. But this is just scratching the surface. Mobile POS, especially when part of an interconnected technology platform, also enables more precise communication between front of house and kitchen, reduces the risk of production mistakes, and helps speed up table turns. Michael Mento, Surface specialist at Microsoft, described how eagerly restaurants have adopted the Surface tablet devices, which also come with accessories specifically designed for use on the restaurant floor.

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3. Build your experiences on a strong technology platform

Customers demand consistent experiences, and these can only be achieved through a unified approach to technology.

Unified software solutions are increasingly replacing traditional fragmented IT setups. The benefits are well known:

  • Managers geta 360-degree view of the organisation, with all business and customer data accessible in one place.
  • Decision making is faster, as managers can get actionable reports, accounts and statistics exactly when they need them.
  • Implementation and management costs are lower, as you don’t need to integrate separate systems and to maintain these integrations.
  • You can transmit information quickly across the company, from the dishes on today’s menu to recipes, prices and nutritional content. So everyone can always perform at the top of their abilities.

And if you run your unified software in the cloud, you can grab opportunities as they arise. As the pandemic hit, companies that run their software in the cloud, and who were not burdened by traditional on-prem infrastructure, investments and timelines, have been able to add innovative technology and transform their business models faster. “For many restaurants, the ability to add systems for pickup, delivery, and curbside made the difference between success and closing up doors,” Miller pointed out.

Leon DeWet, former CIO at F&B enterprises Cracker Barrel and O’Charley’s, reminded business to consider how well the selected software and hardware work together. “If one works, but the other one doesn’t deliver, the project fails,” he noted. “Look for a solution that is proven for software and hardware working together.” Mento, from the Microsoft Surface team, echoed DeWet’s words.

4. Track changes in customer behavior

With people working from home and stuck in lockdowns, restaurants have seen tremendous changes. They have lost old customers, gained new ones, and seen regulars approach them at different times, with new needs. These are changes businesses must pay attention to. “You need to capture this data, or you have no way to build your strategy on driving loyalty now and into the future,” said Minicola. “You cannot establish and foster loyalty without data,” she added.

Access to data that is both reliable and timely is necessary for action. You need to clearly see what is happening to react, and prevent issues and waste. “During the pandemic, many restaurants have had problems sourcing specific ingredients,” said Miller. “With our software, you can do predictive cost analysis, and experiment varying prices, menus and recipes. The system helps you find the sweet spot with optimum benefits. You can then use this knowledge to build resilience into your supply chain in preparation for similar events down the road.” Having clear visibility of your available stock across your locations also enables you to optimize stock usage, for example moving the content of your freezers from a location in a mall that is seeing no foot traffic to one that is still doing good business.

Restaurant Management Software

5. Change your metrics

The world has changed, and how you define success needs to change, too. DeWet believes that too many restaurants are stuck to old KPIs, and took table turns as an example. “How fast you can turn a table is only important if you have guests to fill that table. Don’t be blinded by what has historically been deemed key metrics within the organization. Understand what’s happening in your business now before you decide which metrics to focus on,” he advised.

Change your metrics, and be ready to tweak them again and again. “You can’t use current behavior as an indicator of how customers will deal with you in the future,” Minicola pointed out.

6. Use intelligent tools to predict the future

DeWet, who describes himself as a true fan of intelligent analytics, believes that too many restaurant businesses don’t use their analytical capabilities to their full potential.

“Most organizations are still too focused on just using analytics reactively. They look at the historical data to try and understand what has happened. But it’s with predictive analytics that you get the true value of your intelligence,” said DeWet. Predictive analytics look at disparate large data and find those correlations that can help you foresee changes in trends, so you can understand where the business may be going. For example, if you see that average miles driven begins to drop, you can use AI-powered tools to investigate what typically happens when that situation occurs. This helps you predict when you can expect it, and prepare for it.

DeWet also described the benefits of using a business intelligence platform that can pull in big data. “Marrying your internal data with external data about your environment you can get a much clearer picture of how guest behavior might change. In some areas of your business, a small change in your behavior or in your processes can drive huge benefits,” he said.

7. Don’t forget the human factor

Even though social distancing has changed the entire experience of dining in, guests still want to get a social, warm, personalized experience from their restaurant visit. Employee empowerment – allowing your staff to create the atmosphere of hospitality that drives people back – remains essential to breed loyalty.

“We all strive for loyalty – but it all starts with personal connections,” said Minicola. “If you want to connect with me, you have to talk to me. And that’s how you collect my data, get to know me better, and can then send me offers that drive me back through your doors.”

Carefully select your staff members, and take care of them. “When your staff are well cared for, your customers will be well cared for, too,” said Minicola.

Restaurant Management Software

8. Think long term

An effective digital transformation is built on long-term thinking. “Who would have though, just a year ago, that curbside delivery would be a thing for restaurants like it is for Walmart?” Minicola asked. DeWet advised restaurant CIOs that “We need to change our mindset, and realize that an investment in technology is no different from an investment in the latest air conditioning, or fry system. In both cases, you are investing in a key infrastructure that will enable to do business on an ongoing basis. You can’t wait until the demand is there before you make that investment. You need to be ready ahead of time,” he concluded.

There will be no “going back to normal” after Covid-19. Consumer demand will keep on shifting in different directions, and restaurants must be ready to constantly transform. “There’s a value in being prepared for the future. Even if a technology may not drive clear returns today, if it puts you in a position to be able to respond to changes, then it’s worth it,” DeWet said.

Digital transformation is become an imperative, but restaurants don’t have to do it all on their own. “No one expects you to understand it all. That’s why you have partners,” Minicola said. If you need help in getting your digital transformation going, contact us.

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Dynamics 365: 2020 release wave 2 plan

The Dynamics 365 release plan for the 2020 release wave 2 describes all new features releasing from October 2020 through March 2021. You can either browse the release plan online or download the document as a PDF file. The PDF file also includes information about Power Apps, Power Automate, Power Virtual Agents, Power Platform governance and administration, and Common Data Model and data integration.

The Microsoft Power Platform features coming in the 2020 release wave 2 have been summarized in a separate release plan as well as a downloadable PDF.

2020 release wave 2 overview

The 2020 release wave 2 for Dynamics 365 brings new innovations that provide you with significant capabilities to transform your business. The release contains hundreds of new features across Dynamics 365 applications including Marketing, Sales, Customer Service, Field Service, Finance, Supply Chain Management, Human Resources, Commerce, Fraud Protection, and Business Central.

Marketing

  • Dynamics 365 Marketing improves the customer journey canvas experience and adds integration with Microsoft Teams for virtual events. Segmentation is enhanced with a new natural language experience to create and consume segments, helping eliminate the specialized skills needed to build complex segments.

Sales

  • Dynamics 365 Sales continues emphasis on simplified experiences, app integrations, gamification, a new mobile experience for quick access to customer information, and new enhancements to forecasting to natively create and manage bottom-up sales forecast processes.
  • Dynamics 365 Sales Insights continues investments across multiple areas: sales acceleration, conversation intelligence, relationship intelligence, and advanced forecasting and pipeline intelligence with predictive lead and opportunity scoring to help sales teams uncover top deals.
  • Dynamics 365 Product Visualize empowers sellers and accelerates complex sales processes by showcasing and customizing products in their real-world environment. Sellers can place a 3D digital twin of a product in their customer’s environment and make detailed notes about their requirements.

Service

  • Dynamics 365 Customer Service expands agent productivity capabilities enabling agents to engage in multiple sessions simultaneously. Omnichannel for Customer Service is enhanced with additional extensibility options to enable integration with mobile applications, Microsoft bot framework, and outbound messaging channels.
  • Dynamics 365 Customer Service Insights adds new capabilities to help agents using similar case suggestions to resolve customer issues quickly and easily. A new analytical view for customer service managers helps them focus on key support areas that need attention. These highlights will also be included directly in the core Customer Service Hub app so that users can get insights in context without having to switch between applications.
  • Dynamics 365 Field Service continues to add intelligence capabilities including a new Field Service dashboard for monitoring key KPIs and work order completion metrics. There are many user experience enhancements to enable proactive service delivery. The Field Service mobile app is enhanced with capabilities such as push notifications and real-time location sharing. This release wave also includes scheduling enhancements such as multiday manual scheduling and enhanced skill-based matching.
  • Dynamics 365 Remote Assist expands its range of scenarios beyond calls, allowing technicians to perform activities such as capture service and repairs data, perform surveys and walk-throughs independently, and derive service insights from their service operations.

Finance and Operations

  • Dynamics 365 Finance continues to focus on automating common tasks to reduce the number of manual processes and add insights and intelligence in Finance. Asset leasing enhances the core capabilities of Finance and the global coverage for Finance continues to expand in this release wave.
  • Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management expands planning optimization for Manufacturing to perform supply and production planning in near real time with in-memory services. Enhancements to Product Information Management include engineering change management and product versioning capabilities. Cost Management includes new features that will enable global companies maintain multiple cost accounting ledgers by allowing dual currency and dual valuation. Enhancements to the job card device include a new user experience and a new feature to enable reporting serial numbers.
  • Dynamics 365 Guides is focusing on intelligent workflows in this release wave. By taking advantage of data and AI innovations, work instructions can be configured to adjust on the fly based on operator inputs. In addition, insights will make it easier to use time-tracking data and connect that data to your business.
  • Dynamics 365 Project Operations unifies operational workflows to provide the visibility, collaboration, and insights needed to drive success across teams from sales to finance. Project Operations connects your sales, resourcing, project management, and finance teams within a single application to win more deals, accelerate delivery, empower employees, and maximize profitability.

Human Resources

  • Dynamics 365 Human Resources expands leave and absence and benefits management capabilities to transform the employee experience. Employees and managers will be able to manage leave and absence directly from Microsoft Teams. This release wave enables streamlined integrations to recruiting and payroll partners, thereby building a Human Capital Management (HCM) ecosystem.

Commerce

  • Dynamics 365 Commerce continues to expand capabilities enabling non-developers to easily design and manage digital commerce experiences. Customers can increase lift online and in store with “Shop similar looks” for recommendations. Customers can discover and deploy third-party services, connectors, modules, and themes from Microsoft AppSource.
  • Dynamics 365 Connected Store adds a number of new capabilities such as integration with Dynamics 365 Commerce, front-line worker task assignment and tracing with Microsoft Teams, integrated workflows with Microsoft Power Platform, intelligent command center, store analytics, and store insights solutions such as anomaly detection, inventory recommendations, and shift management recommendations.

Fraud Protection

  • Dynamics 365 Fraud Protection adds integration with Dynamics 365 Commerce and a new “manual review” capability that allows customers to use the Fraud Protection rules experience to flag transactions for review, and then allow expert human agents to consume and adjudicate those transactions.

SMB

  • Dynamics 365 Business Central investments for this release wave include service enhancements to meet the demands of a rapidly growing customer base, improved performance, handling of file storage, geographic expansion together with support for Group VAT, top customer-requested features, and deeper integration with Microsoft Teams.

Customer data platform

  • Dynamics 365 Customer Insights enables every organization to unify disparate data—be it transactional, observational or behavioral sources—to gain a single view of customers and derive intelligent insights that drive key business processes.
  • Dynamics 365 Product Insights enables organizations to understand their customers’ journey, usage, and experience across all channels of their products (web, mobile, and connected devices).

Dynamics 365 Customer Voice

 Note

Starting in July 2020, Microsoft Forms Pro is renamed to Dynamics 365 Customer Voice.

  • Dynamics 365 Customer Voice is the next product evolution from Microsoft Forms Pro. Dynamics 365 Customer Voice is an enterprise feedback management application, powering simple yet robust feedback capture, an integrated customer data platform, and built-in insights tools to enable timely followup actions to close the loop with your customers.Dynamics 365 Customer Voice includes ready-to-use feedback solution templates that preconfigure survey questions, workflow, and reports including a customer feedback solution template based on customer experience (CX) best practices from Forrester Research.

Industry accelerators

Industry accelerators are foundational components within Microsoft Power Platform and Dynamics 365 that enable ISVs and other solution providers to quickly build industry vertical solutions. The accelerators extend Common Data Model to include new entities to support a data schema for concepts within specific industries. This release wave includes enhancements to the following industry accelerators: nonprofit, education, financial services, media and communications, healthcare, manufacturing, and automotive.

Key dates for the 2020 release wave 2

This release plan describes functionality that may not have been released yet. Delivery timelines and projected functionality may change or may not ship (see Microsoft policy).

Here are the key dates for the 2020 release wave 2.

KEY DATES FOR THE 2020 RELEASE WAVE 2
Milestone Date Description
Release plans available July 8, 2020 Learn about the new capabilities coming in the 2020 release wave 2 (October 2020 – March 2021) across Dynamics 365 and Microsoft Power Platform.
Release plans available in 11 additional languages July 23, 2020 The Dynamics 365 and Microsoft Power Platform release plans published in Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Portuguese (Brazilian), Spanish, and Swedish.
Early access available August 3, 2020 Test and validate new features and capabilities that will be a part of the 2020 release wave 2, coming in October, before they get enabled automatically for your end users. You can view the Dynamics 365 2020 release wave 2 early access features now.
General availability October 1, 2020 Production deployment for the 2020 release wave 2 begins. Regional deployments will start on October 2, 2020.

Just like the previous release waves, we continue to call out how each feature will be enabled in your environment:

  • Users, automatically – These features include changes to the user experience for users and are enabled automatically.
  • Admins, makers, or analysts, automatically – These features are meant to be used by administrators, makers, or business analysts and are enabled automatically.
  • Users by admins, makers, or analysts – These features must be enabled or configured by the administrators, makers, or business analysts to be available for their users.

Contact us to Upgrade your NAV to Business Central

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Case Study : Abu Dhabi government builds one-of-a-kind integrated customer service platform using Microsoft Dynamics 365

Established to lead excellence in government services, Abu Dhabi Digital Authority (ADDA) strives to lead the digital future of Abu Dhabi. Taking advantage of Microsoft Dynamics 365, Power BI, and Azure solutions, TAMM integrates Abu Dhabi government services to provide communities and businesses with a seamless, proactive, and personalized customer experience, one that promises to change the way UAE citizens and residents interact with their government for the better.

Abu Dhabi as a digital innovation destination

Abu Dhabi Digital Authority (ADDA) has a vision that offers a new way of interacting with the citizens and residents in Abu Dhabi and throughout the world. ADDA’s vision embraces technology that delivers value through innovation and service excellence. ADDA is building a digital hub that integrates Abu Dhabi’s 1,600 government and business services with over 55 entities into one central platform. This modernizing journey toward global competitiveness means citizens can look forward to a smarter, happier future with better quality of life—all thanks to the TAMM integrated services platform.

Digital smart government, powered by Microsoft

The TAMM integrated service platform is an intelligent customer support center. Taking advantage of Microsoft Dynamics 365, Power BI, and Azure solutions, TAMM unifies Abu Dhabi’s government and business services into 80 integrated journeys. This integration merges a 360-degree view of customers’ information and their interactions across the government into a seamless, proactive, and personalized customer experience. It promises to completely revolutionize the way citizens interact with the government.

Dynamics 365 creates a seamless omni-channel experience. The portal provides United Arab Emirates (UAE) citizens, residents, and visitors with a range of government services through one access point. Operating with Azure and AI increases efficiency and improve customer experience through fast, agile responses to citizen information requests. It provides stakeholders and field workers with decision-making capabilities through in-depth business intelligence on customer behavior.

“Through Power BI, we are now able to ensure that all government data is viewed, including our services that are unified and user-centric,” explains Fatima Al Obeidli, Director – Contact Center Business Management Department at ADDA. “This drives our commitment to superior customer service. The Power BI unified dashboard replaces the multiple reports of the past, ensuring one-of-a-kind customer service experience.”

Microsoft’s customer-first approach has been proven by its profound understanding of ADDA’s vision. “The aim is to establish a unique service model for Abu Dhabi government. Microsoft is a trusted partner, providing us with tools and mechanisms that empower us to lead the digital future of Abu Dhabi,” explains H.E. Saeed Al Mulla, Director, Government Services at ADDA.

Powered by innovation, inspired by society

“By leading with a modern, reliable, and integrated digital system that serves all walks of life in society, ADDA supports the business environment, attracts more investments into Abu Dhabi, and enhances the Emirate’s global competitiveness,“ says Ali Nimer, Strategy Advisor to the Director General and Head of Digital Excellence Office at ADDA.

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How smart manufacturing can optimize your factories for the new era

The focus of every industrial revolution has been increasing the productivity of production systems. The fourth industrial revolution is here, and it’s seeking to improve both production and management systems. Digital transformation driven by smart manufacturing (also known as Industry 4.0) is the basis of this latest one – creating opportunities to achieve levels of productivity and specialization not previously possible.

Combining data generated through the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and analytics creates a new set of capabilities known as predictive maintenance and quality. Fueled by smart manufacturing, these new capabilities are changing the way we do and see business, helping recognizing patterns and predicting failures or product quality issues before they happen.

Introducing the new industrial IoT platform

Most factories are composed of operation technology (OT) assets such as machines, equipment lines and robotic devices that aren’t always connected. The current trend is leaning toward smart manufacturing with a more IT-based factory floor to help save time, labor, cost and maintenance and upkeep. With OT and IT converging, the IIoT platform is emerging as a new, innovative concept for smart manufacturing with artificial intelligence (AI)-based technologies, including analytics, big data and cognitive manufacturing.

Smart manufacturing can spur a new surge of manufacturing productivity.

Targeting the pain points for key manufacturing personnel

In order to understand the impact of Industry 4.0 solutions, we must examine the key people involved in all aspects of a factory. True transformation happens when all unique challenges and each pain point is targeted.

Transforming your factory with a three-tiered architecture solution from IBM

Keeping the needs of different types of workers in mind and using our extensive manufacturing experience, IBM developed a three-tiered distributed architecture to implement smart manufacturing more efficiently. The model addresses the autonomy and self-sufficiency requirements of each production site and balances the workload between the three tiers.

Mapping IBM’s three-tiered architecture.
  1. Edge level. The most physical part of the factory where product-related activities are performed.
  2. Plant or factory level. Where plant and local activities are orchestrated and connected.
  3. Enterprise level. Where analysis of all levels of information happens, and information storage for visualization and analytics is provided.

Leveraging the three architecture tiers to drive performance

IBM offers a suite of enterprise asset management (EAM) solutions to help drive cost savings and operational efficiency across the factory value chain. The portfolio of EAM solutions from IBM analyzes a variety of information from workflows, context and the environment to drive quality and enhance operations and decision making. The portfolio of EAM solutions from IBM helps deliver a smart manufacturing transformation.

Production quality insights use IoT and cognitive capabilities to sense, communicate and self- diagnose issues to optimize each factory’s performance and reduce unnecessary downtime. Insights help reduce unplanned downtime.

Microsoft Azure Cloud Services, Uncategorized

Advancing Azure service quality with artificial intelligence: AIOps

We are going to share our vision on the importance of infusing AI into our cloud platform and DevOps process. Gartner referred to something similar as AIOps (pronounced “AI Ops”) and this has become the common term that we use internally, albeit with a larger scope. Today’s post is just the start, as we intend to provide regular updates to share our adoption stories of using AI technologies to support how we build and operate Azure at scale.

Why AIOps?

There are two unique characteristics of cloud services:

  • The ever-increasing scale and complexity of the cloud platform and systems
  • The ever-changing needs of customers, partners, and their workloads

To build and operate reliable cloud services during this constant state of flux, and to do so as efficiently and effectively as possible, our cloud engineers (including thousands of Azure developers, operations engineers, customer support engineers, and program managers) heavily rely on data to make decisions and take actions. Furthermore, many of these decisions and actions need to be executed automatically as an integral part of our cloud services or our DevOps processes. Streamlining the path from data to decisions to actions involves identifying patterns in the data, reasoning, and making predictions based on historical data, then recommending or even taking actions based on the insights derived from all that underlying data.

 Infusing AI into cloud platform and DevOps – with AI at the center of Customers, Engineering, and Services.
Figure 1. Infusing AI into cloud platform and DevOps.

The AIOps vision

AIOps has started to transform the cloud business by improving service quality and customer experience at scale while boosting engineers’ productivity with intelligent tools, driving continuous cost optimization, and ultimately improving the reliability, performance, and efficiency of the platform itself. When we invest in advancing AIOps and related technologies, we see this ultimately provides value in several ways:

  • Higher service quality and efficiency: Cloud services will have built-in capabilities of self-monitoring, self-adapting, and self-healing, all with minimal human intervention. Platform-level automation powered by such intelligence will improve service quality (including reliability, and availability, and performance), and service efficiency to deliver the best possible customer experience.
  • Higher DevOps productivity: With the automation power of AI and ML, engineers are released from the toil of investigating repeated issues, manually operating and supporting their services, and can instead focus on solving new problems, building new functionality, and work that more directly impacts the customer and partner experience. In practice, AIOps empowers developers and engineers with insights to avoid looking at raw data, thereby improving engineer productivity.
  • Higher customer satisfaction: AIOps solutions play a critical role in enabling customers to use, maintain, and troubleshoot their workloads on top of our cloud services as easily as possible. We endeavor to use AIOps to understand customer needs better, in some cases to identify potential pain points and proactively reach out as needed. Data-driven insights into customer workload behavior could flag when Microsoft or the customer needs to take action to prevent issues or apply workarounds. Ultimately, the goal is to improve satisfaction by quickly identifying, mitigating, and fixing issues.

 

AI for Cloud: AI Ops and AI-Serving Platform showing example use cases in AI for Systems, AI for DevOps, and AI for Customers.

Figure 2. AI for Cloud: AIOps and AI-Serving Platform.

AIOps

Moving beyond our vision, we wanted to start by briefly summarizing our general methodology for building AIOps solutions. A solution in this space always starts with data—measurements of systems, customers, and processes—as the key of any AIOps solution is distilling insights about system behavior, customer behaviors, and DevOps artifacts and processes. The insights could include identifying a problem that is happening now (detect), why it’s happening (diagnose), what will happen in the future (predict), and how to improve (optimize, adjust, and mitigate). Such insights should always be associated with business metrics—customer satisfaction, system quality, and DevOps productivity—and drive actions in line with prioritization determined by the business impact. The actions will also be fed back into the system and process. This feedback could be fully automated (infused into the system) or with humans in the loop (infused into the DevOps process). This overall methodology guided us to build AIOps solutions in three pillars.

AIOps methodologies: Data (Customer/System/DevOps), insights (Detect/Diagnose/Predict/Optimize), and actions (Mitigate/Avert future pain/Optimize usage config/Improve architecture & process).
Figure 3. AIOps methodologies: Data, insights, and actions.

AI for systems

Today, we’re introducing several AIOps solutions that are already in use and supporting Azure behind the scenes. The goal is to automate system management to reduce human intervention. As a result, this helps to reduce operational costs, improve system efficiency, and increase customer satisfaction. These solutions have already contributed significantly to the Azure platform availability improvements, especially for Azure IaaS virtual machines (VMs). AIOps solutions contributed in several ways including protecting customers’ workload from host failures through hardware failure prediction and proactive actions like live migration and Project Tardigrade and pre-provisioning VMs to shorten VM creation time.

Of course, engineering improvements and ongoing system innovation also play important roles in the continuous improvement of platform reliability.

  • Hardware Failure Prediction is to protect cloud customers from interruptions caused by hardware failures.  Microsoft Research and Azure have built a disk failure prediction solution for Azure Compute, triggering the live migration of customer VMs from predicted-to-fail nodes to healthy nodes. We also expanded the prediction to other types of hardware issues including memory and networking router failures. This enables us to perform predictive maintenance for better availability.
  • Pre-Provisioning Service in Azure brings VM deployment reliability and latency benefits by creating pre-provisioned VMs. Pre-provisioned VMs are pre-created and partially configured VMs ahead of customer requests for VMs. As we described in the IJCAI 2020 publication, As we described in the AAAI-20 keynote mentioned above,  the Pre-Provisioning Service leverages a prediction engine to predict VM configurations and the number of VMs per configuration to pre-create. This prediction engine applies dynamic models that are trained based on historical and current deployment behaviors and predicts future deployments. Pre-Provisioning Service uses this prediction to create and manage VM pools per VM configuration. Pre-Provisioning Service resizes the pool of VMs by destroying or adding VMs as prescribed by the latest predictions. Once a VM matching the customer’s request is identified, the VM is assigned from the pre-created pool to the customer’s subscription.

AI for DevOps

AI can boost engineering productivity and help in shipping high-quality services with speed. Below are a few examples of AI for DevOps solutions.

  • Incident management is an important aspect of cloud service management—identifying and mitigating rare but inevitable platform outages. A typical incident management procedure consists of multiple stages including detection, engagement, and mitigation stages. Time spent in each stage is used as a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) to measure and drive rapid issue resolution. KPIs include time to detect (TTD), time to engage (TTE), and time to mitigate (TTM).

 Incident management procedures including Time to Detect (TTD), Time to Engage (TTE), and Time to Mitigate (TTM).
Figure 4. Incident management procedures.

As shared in AIOps Innovations in Incident Management for Cloud Services at the AAAI-20 conference, we have developed AI-based solutions that enable engineers not only to detect issues early but also to identify the right team(s) to engage and therefore mitigate as quickly as possible. Tight integration into the platform enables end-to-end touchless mitigation for some scenarios, which considerably reduces customer impact and therefore improves the overall customer experience.

  • Anomaly Detection provides an end-to-end monitoring and anomaly detection solution for Azure IaaS. The detection solution targets a broad spectrum of anomaly patterns that includes not only generic patterns defined by thresholds, but also patterns which are typically more difficult to detect such as leaking patterns (for example, memory leaks) and emerging patterns (not a spike, but increasing with fluctuations over a longer term). Insights generated by the anomaly detection solutions are injected into the existing Azure DevOps platform and processes, for example, alerting through the telemetry platform, incident management platform, and, in some cases, triggering automated communications to impacted customers. This helps us detect issues as early as possible.

For an example that has already made its way into a customer-facing feature, Dynamic Threshold is an ML-based anomaly detection model. It is a feature of Azure Monitor used through the Azure portal or through the ARM API. Dynamic Threshold allows users to tune their detection sensitivity, including specifying how many violation points will trigger a monitoring alert.

  • Safe Deployment serves as an intelligent global “watchdog” for the safe rollout of Azure infrastructure components. We built a system, code name Gandalf, that analyzes temporal and spatial correlation to capture latent issues that happened hours or even days after the rollout. This helps to identify suspicious rollouts (during a sea of ongoing rollouts), which is common for Azure scenarios, and helps prevent the issue propagating and therefore prevents impact to additional customers.

AI for customers

To improve the Azure customer experience, we have been developing AI solutions to power the full lifecycle of customer management. For example, a decision support system has been developed to guide customers towards the best selection of support resources by leveraging the customer’s service selection and verbatim summary of the problem experienced. This helps shorten the time it takes to get customers and partners the right guidance and support that they need.

AI-serving platform

To achieve greater efficiencies in managing a global-scale cloud, we have been investing in building systems that support using AI to optimize cloud resource usage and therefore the customer experience. One example is Resource Central (RC), an AI-serving platform for Azure that we described in Communications of the ACM. It collects telemetry from Azure containers and servers, learns from their prior behaviors, and, when requested, produces predictions of their future behaviors. We are already using RC to predict many characteristics of Azure Compute workloads accurately, including resource procurement and allocation, all of which helps to improve system performance and efficiency.

Looking towards the future

We have shared our vision of AI infusion into the Azure platform and our DevOps processes and highlighted several solutions that are already in use to improve service quality across a range of areas. Look to us to share more details of our internal AI and ML solutions for even more intelligent cloud management in the future. We’re confident that these are the right investment solutions to improve our effectiveness and efficiency as a cloud provider, including improving the reliability and performance of the Azure platform itself.

 

Note blog reference: https://azure.microsoft.com/en-in/blog/advancing-azure-service-quality-with-artificial-intelligence-aiops/